Firms within Families
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Firms within Families

Enterprising in Diverse Country Contexts

Edited by Jennifer E. Jennings, Kimberly A. Eddleston, P. Devereaux Jennings and Ravi Sarathy

Firms within Families: Enterprising in Diverse Country Contexts investigates this ‘double embeddedness’ of business ownership and management through two illuminating sets of empirical studies. Part I focuses upon the family-oriented goal of socio-emotional wealth and its association with a firm’s strategic orientations, strategies and performance. Part II examines strategies and experiences at the work–family interface and their implications for an owner-manager’s psychological well-being. Both parts feature diverse studies from the United States, Switzerland/Germany, China, Brazil, and India.
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Chapter 2: The orientations, strategies and performance of family and non-family firms in the United States: how important is SEW?

P. Devereaux Jennings, Jennifer E. Jennings and Youngbin Joo


This chapter focuses upon the family embeddedness of business strategy and performance of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the United States. As noted by Sharma and Carney, privately held firms, in general, ‘overwhelmingly dominate the economic landscape of our world’ (Sharma and Carney, 2012: 233). To illustrate this point, they cited figures reported by Stuart (2011) estimating the number of US-based private enterprises with employees at over 6 million—a figure more than 1200 times greater than the country’s 5000 or so publicly traded companies. Of these privately held businesses, the majority are SMEs; that is, small-sized enterprises with fewer than 250 employees and less than $50M in annual revenue; or, medium-sized enterprises with fewer than 500 employees and typically less than $500M in annual revenue (US SBEC, 2013). If sole proprietorships without employees are included, SMEs are estimated to account for approximately two-thirds of all US businesses (Astrachan and Shanker, 2003). They also account for about half of the country’s employment (Astrachan and Shanker, 2003) and for approximately 46.0 percent of the nation’s private non-farm gross domestic product (Breitzman and Hicks, 2008). Depending on the definition adopted, the proportion of SMEs in the US that are considered to be family owned ranges from 28.0 percent (US SBEC, 2013) to 70.0 percent (Astrachan and Shanker, 2003).

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